Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tacking Slippers: Jumping Back into Dinghies for Buzzards Bay Regatta

Overall sailing the Buzzards Bay Regatta in a V15 brought me back to a lot of the more spontaneous components of sailing that had been drilled out of me a little bit in college sailing. Long courses, big wind, big waves. As a “light air” crew my college career didn’t always focus on the same elements that drew me to the sport in junior sailing. I love team racing, but it was refreshing to reconnect with some other aspects of the sport I haven’t been able to do in a while.

The most fun part of BBR for me was trading in my tacking slippers for dancing slippers. My favorite pair of boots, which are barely more than a tattered neoprene sock held together by a piece of string, were called my “tacking slippers” among my college teammates. In team racing, these boots survived many tacking duels but in these long fleet races there wasn’t much need for my tacking slippers. At BBR they same slippers proved themselves downwind.

My skipper, Ben Greenfield, said he was a little nervous when he saw me try out the dancing slippers for the first time. Apparently he saw me randomly jump to the bow; pause, and leap back at suddenly as we were suddenly launched on a wave. As I got more comfortable with my new jumping/dancing moves downwind, I was able to run anywhere from the stern to the bow, easily catching waves in the V15 as if we were surfing. The hull of a V15 is so flat, wide, and empty it was easier for me to treat it like a big surfboard rather than ooch.

The only words to describe what it feels like to be the only crew standing vertically and literally running all around the boat is “hack attack” but it turned out to be a little bit of an attack. We were catching the waves, and by the end of the day it was a sure thing we would catch a couple boats on every downwind leg. With the vang on one hand and hanging onto the boom for a little balance, we were dancing downwind and the boots are temporarily renamed “dancing slippers”. We ended the regatta with two bullets, and landed us in 3rd place overall.

It was great fun to be able to catch waves and let the V15 take off. However, it was more fun to experiment and take a risk that ended up paying off. The style of courses and type of sailing was a throwback to junior sailing, but hopefully for the older and wiser. I think the element that made the long courses feel like junior sailing is that it gives you time to experiment and focus on the boat. The sailing is a lot more centered on boat speed and getting in the groove with waves and wind rather than the boat-on-boat tactics. It was fun to trade in my tacking slippers for dancing slippers for BBR, and a good reminder to get out into the big waves and hike more often. 

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